Archive for the 'Sexual Abuse' Category

Judge Expands Abuse Claim Time Limits…Catches Up to Canada

Judge John R. O’Malley denied the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph summary judgment Friday, after hearing arguments based on Powel v. Chaminade, which added new wording to how the statute of limitations can be applied in sexual abuse claims. The ruling allows a court to consider when a plaintiff not only recalled the alleged abuse, but recognized the harm it inflicted.

O’Malley’s decision allowed the lawsuit to proceed to a jury verdict. The Diocese settled within days.

The ruling means Missouri’s law is now similar to Canada. The 1992 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada,  M (K) v M (H),  removed a major barrier to lawsuits by ruling that provincial limitation periods do not begin to run until the plaintiff is reasonably capable of discovering the wrongful nature of the defendant’s acts and the nexus between those acts and the plaintiff’s injuries.

Nova Scotia became the first Province to amend its Limitation of Actions Act to provide that the limitation period for sexual abuse cases does not start to run until the victim is aware of the full extent of the abuse and the injury suffered. In 1994, British Columbia amended its Limitation Act to eliminate all limitations for causes of action ‘based on misconduct of a sexual nature’ or ‘based on sexual assault’. The rest of the Provinces enacted similar legislation shortly thereafter. 


Province Pays Compensation for Sexual Abuse by Prison Guard

A former inmate has been awarded $40,000.00 in compensation plus $10,000.00 in punitive damges for sexual abuse he suffered by a former prison guard, Roderick David MacDougall.  The inmate sued the Province of British Columbia that ran the prison, the Lower Mainland Regional Correctional Center.

MacDougall sexually assaulted the inmate twice using a combination of intimidation and promises of a pass from the prison for the holidays. The judge was clear about how he felt about MacDougall’s actions:

 As with the other MacDougall cases, the context of MacDougall, who was in a position of  authority in the prison, and of Mr. Hall, who was a young, vulnerable inmate, was clearly  repugnant.  MacDougall took advantage of his position and while there were no threats of direct  violence there was the implied promise of the Christmastime pass.

Lawyers for the Province of British Columbia tried, (unsuccessfully) to attack the victims’ credibility, based in part on his criminal convictions.  Does anyone else find it “repugnant ” that the Province would defend a sexually abusive prison guard on the ground that his victims are not credible BECAUSE THEY WERE PRISONERS?

 The victim, had a horrific pre-trauma history, his mother was a physically abusive prostitute, he developed substance addictions and anger management issues at a young age. The judge clearly had difficulty sorting out the traumatic effects of the victims’s childhood and those of the sexual abuse by the prison guard, MacDougall.

Thus, the challenge this Court is tasked with is to tease out the strands of damage that were  caused by the abuse by MacDougall and the strands of damage that were already in existence and  would have developed in any event, and the damage that occurred later but was without  intersection with the MacDougall abuse, in order to place Mr. Hall in the position he would have  been in “but for” the assaults.

The median award for non-pecuniary (pain and suffering) damages for sexual abuse in Canada is $125,000.00.

It is incredibly unfortunate that the very issues that made him vulnerable to attack by MacDougall resulted in such a relatively low award.

You can read the full decision here.

There are at least 16 other reported decisions involving sexual abuse by MacDougall against other inmates! One has to ask the question, were the people in charge of supervising MacDougall fired suspended or even reprimanded?

I doubt it. 

I have represented hundreds of survivors of childhood abuse. Many of them, because of their traumatic childhood, have criminal records. It is difficult enough for victims of abuse to come forward to confront their abusers. It is appalling that sexual abusers can use the effects of the abuse to try to avoid being held accountable.

Bankrupt Diocese Settles Priest Sexual Abuse Claims

Yesterday the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego reached a settlement to compensate 144 victims of sexual abuse by priests within the Diocese.

The settlement will pay victims an average of 1.37 million dollars, slightly higher than the landmark $660 million settlement announced by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which will see average pay outs of 1.3 million dollars.

The settlement came after the San Diego Diocese declared bankruptcy to protect it’s assests from the lawsuits filed by abuse victims. The Judge monitoring the Diocese’s bankruptcy proceedings, Bankruptcy Judge Louise DeCarl Adler, was highly critical of the Diocese’s conduct during the proceedings, stating that the financial reports filed by the Church contained “irregularities” and undervalued Church assets. At one point, the Judge threatened to dimiss the bankruptcy altogether, ending the protection from victim’s lawsuits.

The settlement requires the Diocese to release internal documents proving the sexual abuse and the extent that Chuch officials were aware of the pedophile priests within the Diocese.

You can read more here.

Sexual Abuse Settlements Empower Victims to Come Forward

Frank Douglas has posted another interesting article about the Los Angeles priest abuse settlement on his Voice from the Desert blog.

He highlights an important part of the Los Angeles settlement (perhaps the most important part); the requirement for the Archdiocese to release to the public documents about it’s knowlege of the predatory habits of the Archdiocese’s sexually abusive priests.

Sexual abuse thrives on secrecy. Sexual predators manipulate their victims through shame and guilt. The article points out that:

when the predators’ names come out, other victims of the same perpetrator are often empowered to come forward.

Unfortunately, in some cases the names come out too late. In one case I am currently involved in David Martin took his own life because he could no longer deal with the pain of the sexual abuse he had suffered at the hands of Father Hugh Vincent MacDonald. His suicide note disclosing the abuse launched a police investigation that uncovered  dozens of MacDonald’s sexual abuse victims, most of whom I now represent. Unfortunately MacDonald died before he could be tried and convicted, robbing his victims of the opportunity to hold him accountable.

Jehovah’s Witness Sexual Abuse follow up

Thanks to all those that have posted comments about this (and those that have emailed me directly).

I received some interesting documents from former J.W. members that I will be posting about shortly.

I would be interested in hearing more from  J.W. members about this issue. You can email me directly by clicking on the “Contact John McKiggan” link at the top of this page or through my firm website.

B.C. will not charge Polygamists with Child Sexual Abuse

British Columbia has decided not to lay criminal charges of child sexual abuse against polygamists who are members of a Fundamentalist Mormon colony in Bountiful, B.C.

Several women who have escaped from the colony allege that uneducated, underage girls are pressured to marry much older men already married to other women.

Stat Guy has posted an article containing number of links documenting the history of the investigation and the Attorney General’s decision not to pursue criminal charges.

Richard Peck, the special prosecutor assigned to investigate the matter determined that Canada’s Criminal Code provisions prohibiting polygamy do NOT violate the Charter of Rights guarantee of Religious Freedom.

However, he did feel that the law needed clarification, and recommended a reference to the Supreme Court of Canada.

It appears that the basis for his recommendation not to pursue criminal charges as based on the fact that the children who were allegedly forced into the marriages all claimed to have consented to the marriages.

“The real issue here is that the number of so-called complainants that we have have all told us that they consented to the act that took place…

At the time the incidents are alleged to have taken place, the age of consent was 14, though it’s now been raised to 16.

“We really have no case as far as sex assaults are concerned…” 

Given the control that some religious organizations exercise over their members one has to ask: How legitimate the consent of a child can be when the request is made by the leader of the child’s church?

Jehovah’s Witness Pedophilia Coverup?

Black Sun Journal has posted a fascinating article about allegations of cover up of sexual abuse with the Jehovah’s Witness Watchtower Society.

It is not unusual (perhaps even commonplace) for religious organizations to deny or cover up allegations of sexual abuse; see for example here, here, here, here and so on …

In most cases where I have represented victims of clergy sexual abuse, the evidence has indicated that persons’ in authority within the Church either had knowlege of the abuse, or actively covered it up.

What struck me was the lengths to which the Watchtower Society will go to deny or cover up allegations  of sexual abuse within the Church. The article states:

Bowen’s group has criticized the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ policy that if an accused abuser denies the charge, two credible witnesses are required to establish guilt — due to literal application of such Bible verses as Deuteronomy 19:15 (“only on the evidence of two witnesses, or of three witnesses, shall a charge be sustained”).

If two witnesses are lacking, the accused is deemed innocent, charges remain confidential and — silentlambs says — parents who warn others are subject to disfellowshipping for slander.

Disfellowshipping is an extreme penalty that means a total cutoff of relationships by family members, friends and business associates who are Witnesses.

Sexual abuse is a crime of secrecy. Since most sexual abusers do not commit their criminal acts in the presence of witnesses the “two witnesses” requirement is one that would be next to impossible to meet.

To go even further by threatening victims who want to warn others of sexual abusers with being cut off from their family, friends and associates (the persons victims would turn to for help and support after being victimized) is perhaps an even greater betrayal than the sexual abuse itself.

In most jurisdictions in North America it is a crime for person’s in authority to fail to report allegations of sexual abuse to the approprite agency (Children’s Services etc.) so that the allegations can be investigated in an independent and unbiased manner.

Perhaps it is time that Religious groups be subjected to the same threat of criminal prosection as private citizens. See for example here .

John McKiggan’s Abuse Claims Feed